Half the fun of Christmas is waiting for its arrival. Children, and many adults, can hardly stand the tantalizing anticipation of fun and gifts. But even apart from Christmas, a lot of people spend their lives waiting. They wait for the perfect love, or the perfect job, or the perfect home, or the perfect situation. And sadly, these people are waiting for things that will never appear… because they don’t exist.

This is one of life’s absurdities—waiting on unrealistic hopes. In this sense, waiting is a tragic waste of time.

Others, however, are waiting for something sure and substantial. Their hopes have a foundation. And the assurance of their hope gives them strength to carry on, sometimes in very difficult circumstances.

The nation of Israel had a long tradition of waiting. We see in the Old Testament that people in every generation had set their hopes on what God would do. From Abraham to Elijah, God’s people eagerly anticipated the fulfillment of all His promises.

Centuries later, in the New Testament, we find the tradition of waiting continued. In Luke 2, which tells the story of Jesus’ birth and the events that followed, we find the story of two people who were waiting. One was Anna. She was looking forward to the “redemption of Jerusalem.” The other was Simeon, who was waiting for the “consolation of Israel.” They, like their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, were eagerly waiting for God to burst into their circumstances and do what He had promised to do.

Then, when the Christ child was born, both Anna and Simeon took Jesus in their arms and rejoiced. They saw the baby Jesus as the answer to their waiting.

Coming up to them at that very moment, [Anna] gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:38)

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”
(Luke 2:28-32)